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Motorcyle riders gear up for cystic fibrosis

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POTSDAM - Every year, Jennifer A. Dean finds herself getting teary-eyed when motorcycles rev up their engines before zooming away from Ton’s Sports Bar for the “Ride to Breathe.”

Mrs. Dean, a Canton resident, started the annual motorcycle ride in 2004 after her daughter, Bethany P. Dean, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

The toddler died on her second birthday, Feb. 18, 2006, following surgery at Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse. Since then, coordinating the fundraiser is both therapeutic and rewarding for her mother.

“It has helped me with a lot of the grief,” Mrs. Dean said. “I still get teary-eyed sometimes when people ask me about Bethany, but it’s gotten easier to talk about.”

All of the proceeds from “Ride to Breathe” go the national Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, an organization dedicated to researching a cure for the disease. The event is supported by business and community sponsors.

This year, Mrs. Dean is also motivated by the release of KALYDECO, a new oral medication for cystic fibrosis patients. The prescription medicine is for those 6 and older who have a specific gene mutation. The pills were approved in January by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

“Unfortunately, Bethany didn’t have a chance to have it, but the medical breakthroughs are helping others,” Mrs. Dean said.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited, chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive systems of about 70,000 people worldwide. A defective gene and its protein cause the body to produce a thick, sticky mucous that clogs lungs and interferes with digestion.

Mrs. Dean and her husband, Scott J., also have two sons, Ryan F., 18, and Hunter C., 11.

This year’s eighth annual Ride to Breathe is scheduled for June 3, once again beginning and ending at Ton’s Sports Bar, 159 Market St., Potsdam. Registration begins at 10 a.m. with the ride starting at noon.

The 110-mile ride throughout St. Lawrence County finishes with a barbecue at Ton’s, where door prizes will be awarded to participants.

Last year, 101 riders participated, donating about $5,000 for the cystic fibrosis research. This year’s goal is $7,000.

The ride has started to draw motorcyclists from different parts of the state, including Syracuse and Lake Placid.

“Every year it’s growing. It’s been spreading by word of mouth,” Mrs. Dean said. “We see some of the same people every year, but we also meet new people.”

Those riding solo on the motorcycle pay $15, while two-person riders pay $25. Cars and other motor vehicles are also allowed to join. Participants receive T-shirts and a free barbecue at Ton’s following the ride.

To register, contact Mrs. Dean at 854-0745 or jdean9@twcny.rr.com .

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